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Mosiah 3


Out of Bondage through Covenants

      Jarom -- Mosiah



Mosiah 3:1 That Which Is to Come:


     In Mosiah 3:1 we find an expression, "that which is to come":

           And again my brethren, I would call your attention, for I have somewhat more to speak unto you; for behold, I have things to tell you concerning that which is to come .


     According to John Tvedtnes, the words "that which is to come" refer specifically to Christ and not to future events in general. This becomes clear as we read the rest of Mosiah 3, which is devoted to a message delivered to Benjamin by an angel. The entire message concerns the coming of Jesus Christ. . . . Even more interesting is the fact that throughout the rest of the Book of Mormon, the phrase "that which is to come" and similar phrases overwhelmingly refer to the coming of Christ and not just the general future. (See for example, Mosiah 4:11, 5:3,18:2; Alma 5:48, 21:8, 58:40; Helaman 6:14,8:23) [John A. Tvedtnes, "That Which Is to Come," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, pp. 245-250]


Mosiah 3:2, 8 The Things Which I Shall Tell You Are Made Known unto Me by an Angel from God . . . Jesus Christ:


     Critics of the Book of Mormon note the fact that the title "Christ" was on the small plates (see 2 Nephi 10:3); but then in the book of Mosiah, Benjamin reports learning the name of Christ through a revelation from an angel (see Mosiah 3:2, 8). The critics then raise a valid question: "Why would king Benjamin have to receive a special revelation informing him of the name of Christ if the plates of Nephi already contained this information?"

     According to Ara Norwood, the answer can be found by careful study of both passages. In the case of Benjamin, we find that a great deal more than the name of Christ is revealed. For instance, in Mosiah 3, we discover that Benjamin learned many things from the angel concerning the ministry of Jesus that he could not have learned from the revelation Jacob recorded in 2 Nephi 10. In fact, from the perspective alone of what was written of both revelations, the majority of the revelation to Benjamin is actually unique. But even if it were not, Benjamin, as an independent witness, had every reason to record his sacred experience--just as the various gospel writers in the New Testament had every reason to record their overlapping testimonies of the life of Christ.

     Concerning Benjamin's use of the name "Jesus Christ, the Son of God" during the supposed pre-Christian era, they simply represent his best effort to express in the translator Joseph Smith's language (i.e., nineteenth-century American English) the meaning of the words revealed by God. It should be clear that any rendering of words or ideas from ancient times into a modern language must necessarily use words that would have been unavailable anciently. This is as true of a modern translation of Cicero, Aescylus, or Confucius as it is of Joseph Smith's translation of the Book of Mormon. [L. Ara Norwood, "Book Review of Jerald and Sandra Tanner's, Covering Up the Black Hole in the Book of Mormon, in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 3 1991, pp. 164-165]

     Note* As for someone having a designated name that was apparently known beforehand, critics of the Book of Mormon should note that John the Baptist's name was specifically given to Zacharias (see Luke 1:13). If a name was specifically given by an angel from God beforehand, then the name of John was apparently planned and known from the beginning. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 3:2-3 The Things Which I Shall Tell You Are Made Known unto Me by an Angel from God:


     [See the commentary on Mosiah 13-16]


Mosiah 3:1-3 (Chiasmus--Evidence of Authorship):


     According to John Welch, the presence of chiasmus may prove something about the authors of the passages which make up the chiasmus. Although one cannot be certain to what extent inspiration provided these authors with the form as well as the content of these passages. . . . A fine example of chiasmus appears in the midst of the words spoken by the angel to King Benjamin:

           O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it. And again my brethren, I would call your attention, for I have somewhat more to speak unto you;

     A. for behold, I have things to tell you concerning

       B. that which is to come

         C. And the things which I shall tell you

           D. are made known unto me by an angel from God

             E. And he said unto me: Awake;

               F. and I awoke, and behold he stood before me.

             E' And he said unto me: Awake,

           D' and hear the words

         C' which I shall tell thee:

       B' for behold, I am come

     A' to declare unto you the glad tidings of great joy.


     This may be a case in which either the angel or Benjamin used chiasmus in order to speak to the people "after the manner of their own language" (D&C 1:24), or this elevated structure may have come entirely from the angel and then may have become a pattern that subsequent Nephite writers chose to accentuate.

     Welch notes that many indications demonstrate that "the ancient concern for language and its features in many periods may have far surpassed our own modern verbal skills."77 The appearance of chiasmus in the Nephite texts is therefore evidence of the skill of these authors. [John W. Welch, "What Does Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon Prove?" in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited, pp. 208-209]


Mosiah 3:2-3 Awake; and I Awoke. . . . Awake, and Hear:


     According to John Welch, since the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles fell at or around the same time in ancient Israel,78 it is possible to see influences from both of these holy days upon Benjamin's speech. . . . For such a great day, sacred preparations were in order, especially those made by the high priest. Rabbinic writings report special efforts taken to keep the high priest awake during the night of the Day of Atonement, and pious men followed this example.79 Benjamin's preparations, also, were substantial. He was awakened at night--"Awake; and I awoke. . . . Awake, and hear"--Mosiah 3:2-3)--by the visitation of an angel from God. He met with his sons (see Mosiah 1:10-18) and carefully wrote his speech in advance (see Mosiah 2:7). The same assumption applies in Benjamin's case. [John W. Welch, "The Temple in the Book of Mormon," in Temples of the Ancient World, pp. 352-353, 359]


Mosiah 3:3 I Am Come to Declare unto You the Glad Tidings of Great Joy:


     Benjamin declared that:

           "the things which I shall tell you are made known unto me by an angel from God. And he said unto me: Awake; and I awoke, and behold he stood before me. And he said unto Me: Awake, and hear the words which I shall tell thee; for behold, I am come to declare unto you the glad tidings of great joy. (Mosiah 3:2-3)


     According to Hugh Nibley, this phrase "glad tidings of great joy" is very interesting. . . . The angel uses this on more than one occasion. It's always an angel that says this, "glad tidings of great joy" and the angel uses this phrase on more than one occasion. Take, for example, the reference Alma the younger makes in his preaching at Ammonihah:

           Yea, and the voice of the Lord, by the mouth of angels, doth declare it unto all nations; yea, doth declare it, that they may have glad tidings of great joy; yea, and he doth sound these glad tidings among all his people, yea, even to them that are scattered abroad upon the face of the earth; wherefore they have come unto us. (Alma 13:22--italics added)


     Of course this phrase is also found in Luke 2:10: there were certain shepherds in the field watching their flocks, and the angel of God came and said "Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy." This is an oriental form. In Greek it has been strained, and in English even more strained. But it's the masdar. When you want to make something extremely emphatic, the masdar is to repeat the verbal noun. For example, in Arabic it's not right to say, "He rejoiced greatly." You have to say, "He rejoiced a great rejoicing or a great gladness." So we have that form there, joy and gladness; or fear and trembling. You always intensify it. That's biblical parallelism. This is the way it is in the Bible. . . . The angel came to Benjamin with the same formula. He is speaking the same language here that he spoke in Israel. More importantly, however, the angel is declaring the Christmas message. The birth of Christ is exactly what he is predicting:

           For behold, the time cometh and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men . . .


  [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 1, pp. 462-463]


Mosiah 3:3 I Am Come to Declare unto You the Glad Tidings of Great Joy:


     King Benjamin declared that "glad tidings of great joy" had been communicated to him by an angel of the Lord. (Mosiah 3:3; see also Helaman 13:7) However, the identify of this angel is not revealed. According to Rodney Turner, since no one was yet resurrected the angel was probably a translated being. I am tempted to suggest Enoch but this is sheer conjecture on my part. . . . Insofar as extant scripture is concerned, this angel was the first to speak of Christ as the Lord God Omnipotent. This title appears nowhere in the standard works other than in chapters 3 and 5 of Mosiah, and in Revelation 19:6. [Rodney Turner, "The Great Conversion," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, pp. 214, 228]


Mosiah 3:7 Blood Cometh from Every Pore:


     Jeffrey Marsh notes that spiritual anguish and physical pain pressed down upon Jesus so greatly in the garden of Gethsemane that blood oozed from every pore in his body (JST Luke 22:44; Mosiah 3:7). The medical term for such a condition is hematodrosis. Under extreme distress and pressure the capillaries burst and produce a bloody sweat. Christ's was the most sever instance of hematodrosis every experienced. Because he bled at every pore his attire must have been stained crimson when he left the garden (D&C 133:48). [W. Jeffrey Marsh, His Final Hours, p. 48]      


Mosiah 3:7 Blood Cometh from Every Pore:


     According to Jeffrey Marsh, the wine at Passover is red in color, like the blood of the firstborn lambs (Exodus 12:5,12) without blemish (Exodus 12:5) and without any broken bones (Exodus 12:46) that was smeared on the doorposts at the first Passover, and subsequently at the temple in Jerusalem at each annual Passover celebration. The lambs blood reminds us of the blood Christ shed to redeem us and save us from death: "And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it. For this is in remembrance of my blood . . . which is shed for as many as shall believe on my name, for the remission of their sins" (JST Matthew 26:23-24).

     Interestingly, Alfred Edersheim writes that according to Jewish tradition, "Red wine alone was to be used at the Pashal Supper, and always mixed with water" (The Temple, p. 237). He notes "Indeed, [a] quotation from the Mishnah (Pes. vii. 13) might even induce one to believe that warm water was mixed with the wine." (pp. 237-238) This leads to some interesting parallels.

     The Atonement was accomplished at a couple of locations (in the garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives and on the cross at Golgotha) before Christ's body was laid in the tomb, and at each location we find actions behind the symbolism of the wine mixed with water. From both the Bible and the Book of Mormon we find testimony to the fact that while in the garden of Gethsemane, in the heat of great suffering, Jesus' "sweat was as it were great drops of blood" (Luke 22:44) insomuch that "blood cometh from every pore" (Mosiah 3:7). Furthermore at Golgotha, as the evening approached, the soldiers went about to finish the job of death so that "the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day" which began at sunset (John 19:31). The usual practice was to break the legs of those hanging on the cross because they could no longer gasp for air by standing on the nail driven through their feet. Thus the soldiers broke the legs of the two thieves, but "when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs" (John 19:33-- see also Psalm 34:20) Rather, one of the soldiers, observing that Jesus was already dead, pierced his side with a spear, "and forthwith came there out blood and water" (John 19:34).

     It is also worth noting that Elder James E. Talmage has written that the "blood and water" indicated that the Savior's heart had burst (Jesus the Christ., 668-69; John 19:34). Thus Jesus died of a broken heart (and a contrite spirit), having totally submitted to do all the will of his Father. As the old adorns the new, it is interesting that when the Savior appeared to the Nephites on the American continent after his resurrection, he stated the following:

           And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings. And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost. (3 Nephi 9:19-20)


[Adapted from W. Jeffrey Marsh, His Final Hours, pp. 36,82] [See the commentary on Alma 7:14]


Mosiah 3:7 Blood Cometh from Every Pore:


     According to John Welch and Stephen Ricks, the phrase "blood cometh from every pore" (Mosiah 3:7) prophesies the event reported in Luke 22:44 that "his sweat was as it were great drops of blood." Benjamin, in his declaration of the suffering of Christ in Gethsemane and in keeping with the role of the Book of Mormon as "another Testament of Jesus Christ," affirms the literal nature of Luke's description. This verse in Luke is unique to his Gospel, and since the times of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, lines have been drawn as to whether this verse was symbolic or literal. Some assert, "in using the expression 'as it were great drops of blood,' he does not declare the drops of sweat to have been actually drops of blood" (Dionysius, Ante-Nicene Fathers, 5:230). Modern commentators have noted, "Cases are known in which the blood, violently agitated by grief, ends by penetrating through the vessels which inclose it, and driven outward, escapes with the sweat through the transpiratory glands" (Godet, Commentary on Luke, 1981, 476).

     Uncertainty has arisen among Bible scholars about Luke 22:43-44 because these words are not present in the earliest New Testament manuscripts of Luke. However, after evaluating textual, stylistic, structure, scribal, and other evidence, Raymond E. Brown concluded: "While clearly the evidence available does not settle the issue of whether Luke wrote 22:43-44, in my judgment the overall import of the five types of evidence or reasoning discussed above favors Lucan authorship" (SBL 1992 Seminar Papers, 159). . . . Moreover, Joseph Fitzmyer concludes: there can be at least "no doubt that a tradition about Jesus' agony in the garden as found in these verses [Luke 22:43-44] is ancient" (Luke, 1985, 1443).

[John W. Welch and Stephen D. Ricks, "Appendix--Complete Text of Benjamin's Speech with Notes and Comment" in King Benjamin's Speech: "That Ye May Learn Wisdom," p. 548]


Mosiah 3:7 Blood Cometh from Every Pore:


     In Mosiah 3:7, we find that in describing Jesus' agony in the garden of Gethsemane, King Benjamin notes that "blood cometh from every pore." In relation to this statement, the Book of Mormon student might be readily drawn to the New Testament as a confirmation of Benjamin's words. Luke reports that in the Garden of Gethsemane, in the midst of great agony, Jesus' "sweat was as it were great drops of blood" (Luke 22:44). However, because Luke's words have been considered by some to be of doubtful authenticity,80 one might ask, How do we explain Benjamin's words in a chronological situation many years before the birth of Christ? Perhaps it might be wise to view the larger perspective of the narrative.

     The ancient covenant farewell address made by King Benjamin to his people is recorded in chapters two through five of the book of Mosiah. In the third chapter of Mosiah, we find Benjamin relating the details of a vision he had experienced regarding the coming of Christ. In this vision an angel of the Lord delivered the following message:

           For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men. (Mosiah 3:5)


More specifically, Benjamin was told by the angel that

           [Jesus would suffer] even more than a man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and abominations of his people. And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary. And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men even through faith on his name; and even after all this they shall consider him a man . . . and shall crucify him. And he shall rise the third day from the dead; and behold, he standeth to judge the world . . . For behold, and also his blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam, who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned. . . . For behold he judgeth, and his judgment is just; and the infant perisheth not that dieth in his infancy; but men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. (Mosiah 3:7-11,18)



     What is most striking with this speech on Christ's mission to earth to atone for the sins of mankind, however, is that right in the middle of delivering his message, the angel alludes to the types and shadows and symbolism behind the Mosaic rituals that, for hundreds of years before Jesus' actual birth, prefigured his workings among the children of Israel. In regards to the symbolic teachings contained within these Mosaic rituals, the angel said to Benjamin:

           [The Lord] appointed unto them [the children of Israel] a law of Moses. And many signs, and wonders, and types, and shadows showed he unto them . . . yet they hardened their hearts, and understood not that the law of Moses availeth nothing except it were through the atonement of his blood. (Mosiah 3:14-15)


     In view of the context and positioning of these verses, the reader might ask, What would have prompted the angel to insert this comment on the types and shadows of the Mosaic law? or What would have prompted Mosiah to arrange Benjamin's speech in such a manner? In other words, what specific connection do ideas such as bleeding "from every pore," "the transgression of Adam" (which brought death and sin into the world), the infant that "dieth in his infancy," and the "atoning blood of Christ" have to do with the types and shadows of the Mosaic law? In relation to the atonement, most gospel scholars would quickly bring up the example of the Paschal Lamb; however, another illustrative "type and shadow" to the previously cited phrases might be found in the little known and seldom taught ritual sacrifice of the red heifer.


     According to Alfred Edersheim, in Mosaic worship everything was symbolical, that is, spiritual realities were conveyed through outward signs; every physical defilement would point to, and carry with it, as it were, a spiritual counterpart. But especially was this the case with reference to birth and death, which were so closely connected with sin and the second death, with redemption and the second birth. Hence, all connected with mortal birth and death implied defilement, and required Levitical purification. . . . Furthermore, although there was the service of purification connected with the mortal birth, yet it was not nearly so solemn or important as that for the removal of defilement from contact with death. . . . Hence defilement by the dead was symbolically treated as the greatest of all. It lasted seven days; it required a special kind of purification; and it extended not only to those who had touched the dead, but even to the house or tent where the body had lain, and all open vessels therein. . . . Because of this, the provision for purification here was exceptional.

     According to Numbers 19:1-21, "a red heifer without spot" (v. 2), that is, without any white or black hair on its hide, without "blemish, and on which never yoke [symbolic of worldly bondage] came" (v. 2), was to be sacrificed as a sin-offering (vv. 9,17). Moreover, this ritual was to take place outside the camp, not in the sanctuary [temple grounds], and by the son of, or by the presumptive successor to the high-priest (v. 3). The blood of this sacrifice was to be sprinkled seven times [symbolical of perfection: God=3 + Man=4 makes perfection =7] with the finger, not on the altar, but towards the sanctuary; then the whole animal--skin, flesh, blood, and dung--burned, the priest casting into the midst of the burning heifer "cedarwood, and hyssop, and scarlet" (v. 6). The ashes of this sacrifice were to be gathered by "a man that is clean," and laid up "without the camp in a clean place" (v. 9). . . . When required for purification, a clean person was to take of those ashes, put them in a vessel, pour upon them "living water," then dip hyssop in it, and on the third and seventh days sprinkle him who was to be purified; after which he had to wash his clothes and bathe his flesh, when he became "clean" on the evening of the seventh day. . . .

     From all these provisions it is evident that as death carried with it the greatest defilement, so the sin-offering for its purification was in itself and in its consequences the most marked. . . . The ashes of the red heifer are expressly so designated in the words: "It is a singular offering" (Numbers 9:17). It differs from all other sin-offerings. The sacrifice was to be of pure red colour; one "upon which never came yoke," and a female, all other sin-offerings for the congregation being males (see Leviticus 4:14). But what distinguished it even more from all others was, that it was a sacrifice offered once for all (at least so long as its ashes lasted); that its blood was sprinkled, not on the altar, but outside the camp towards the sanctuary; and that, contrary to the other sin-offerings (see Leviticus 4:11,12,20,etc.), it was wholly burnt, along with cedarwood, as the symbol of imperishable existence, hyssop, as that of purification from corruption, and "scarlet," which from its colour was the emblem of life. Thus the sacrifice of highest life, brought as a sin-offering, and, so far as possible, once for all, was in its turn accompanied by the symbols of imperishable existence, freedom from corruption, and fulness of life, so as yet more to intensify its significance. But even this is not all. The gathered ashes with running water were sprinkled on the third and seventh days on that which was to be purified. Assuredly, if death meant "the wages of sin," this purification pointed, in all its details, to "the gift of God," which is "eternal life," through the sacrifice of Him in whom is the fulness of life. . . . Even more remarkable, the sacrifice of the red heifer was to take away the defilement of death, as that which stood between God and man, from outside the sanctuary. In other words, the Mosaic dispensation had within its sanctuary no real provision for the spiritual wants to which the rituals which took place there symbolically pointed. The satisfaction of these spiritual wants lay outside their sanctuary and beyond its symbols. Spiritual death, as the consequence of the fall, personal sinfulness, and personal guilt lay outside the law of Moses and pointed to Him who was to come. . . . Indeed, because this sacrifice defiled all those who took part in the sacrifice, it signified that there was no one, who, by his own holiness, could bear or take away the sin imputed to this sin-offering. . . . The ashes of this sin-offering, mixed with living water and sprinkled with hyssop, symbolized purification from that death which separates God and man.

     Interestingly, according to the tradition of the Rabbis (see Parah i. ii. ii. iv. ), there was an arched roadway leading from the east gate of the temple out upon the Mount of Olives. . . . On the Mount of Olives the elders of Israel were already in waiting. First, the priest immersed his whole body, then he approached the sacrifice. . . . Slaying the sacrifice with his right hand, he caught up the blood in his left. Seven times he dipped his finger in it, sprinkling it towards the Most Holy Place, which he was supposed to have in full view over the Porch of Solomon or through the eastern gate [a location satisfied by the Garden of Gethsemane]. . . . The burnt remains were beaten into ashes and divided into three parts--one of which was kept in the Temple-terrace, the other on the Mount of Olives, and the third distributed among the priesthood throughout the land. The next care was to find one to whom no suspicion of possible defilement could attach, who might administer purification to such as needed it. . . . According to Jewish tradition, children were exclusively employed in this ministry. If we are to believe the Mishnah (Parah, ii, 2-5) there were at Jerusalem certain dwellings built upon rocks, that were hollowed beneath, so as to render impossible pollution from unknown graves beneath. Here the children destined for this ministry were to be born, and here they were reared and kept till fit for their service. (Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services As They Were at the Time of Christ, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted January 1985, pp. 343-355)


     Getting back to the original question concerning the historical validity of the phrase "blood cometh from every pore," the answer might be found in the fact that the sacrifice of the red heifer was a whole and symbolically perfect sacrifice. To the Israelites, the color red was symbolic of not only blood but sin. According to Edersheim, the Mishnah (Parah, i. ii.) states that in the colour of the red heifer's hide, two white or black hairs springing from the same follicle disqualify it. If the detail of the Mosaic law came down to every "follicle," could not the detail of the angel's message and King Benjamin's understanding also come down to "every pore"? I believe that it did. Moreover, biblical evidence also demonstrates to us that the sacrificial symbolism of the red heifer was clearly understood not only in New Testament times (see Hebrews 9), but in Old Testament times as well (see Psalm 51:7). [See Alan C. Miner, "The Sacrifice and Purification Ritual of the Red Heifer," Unpublished] [See the commentary on Alma 7:14]


Mosiah 3:7 Blood cometh from every pore (the location of the garden of Gethsemane at the time of Christ): Map of Jerusalem during the Time of Christ. [Church Educational System, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & his Apostles, p. 209]


Mosiah 3:7 Blood cometh from every pore (the location of the garden of Gethsemane at the time of Christ): Map of Jerusalem at the Time of Herod. [Church Educational System, Old Testament Student Manual 1 Kings-Malachi, Introductory pages]


Mosiah 3:8 Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of Heaven and Earth, the Creator of All Things from the Beginning:


     According to John Welch, building upon the foundational testimony of Christ, each Book of Mormon prophet distinctively accented certain attributes of Jesus Christ. Judging simply from the names and titles that they used in referring to the Lord, we can see that each Book of Mormon prophet related to and testified of Jesus in his own personal ways, revealing to us things about Jesus Christ and also about the prophets who knew him.

     King Benjamin received from the angel of the Lord a succinct explanation of the atoning mission of Christ (Mosiah 3:2-27) Those words became the centerpiece of Benjamin's speech, during which he announced to his people that his son Mosiah was their new king (Mosiah 1:120; 2:30) and gave the people a new name that distinguished them above all people (Mosiah 1:11).

     On a day when the newly appointed king normally received his new coronation name and titles, Benjamin solemnly disclosed for the first time an extended name of Jesus Christ and gave it to the entire multitude by way of covenant. The new name testified that the Savior would be called "Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning" (Mosiah 3:8). The people's use of this name in their response (Mosiah 4:2) and its subsequent reappearance in the record (Helaman 14:12) suggest that this extended name had sacred, perhaps ceremonial significance among the Nephites.81

     Benjamin's speech, which was delivered at the temple in Zarahemla where blood sacrifices were routinely performed under the law of Moses (Mosiah 2:3), emphasized more than any other aspect of Christ's ministry the atoning functions of his blood. Four times, Benjamin mentioned the "blood" of Christ in connection with the atonement (Mosiah 3:11,15,16,18), and the people answered him saying, "Apply the atoning blood of Christ" (Mosiah 4:2). Other Book of Mormon prophets had previously spoken and would later speak of having their garments washed white in the blood of the Lamb, but no prophet gave such clear information about the atoning work of Christ's blood itself or placed such central attention on the fact that Christ's blood actually would be spilt. Benjamin alone described Jesus' bloody sweat coming form every power in anguish for his people.82 Interestingly, Benjamin linked the atoning blood of Christ with the full range of atonement concepts under the law of Moses; he assured the people that Christ's blood atones for the sins of all those who humble themselves and repent, and for the sins of those "who had fallen by the transgression of Adam, who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned" (Mosiah 3:11). The need under the law of Moses to atone even for sins committed in ignorance is stated in Numbers 15:27-29, and such iniquities were of particular interest on the Day of Atonement when the scapegoat carried away "all their iniquities" (Leviticus 16:22).

     Indeed, so holy was the Day of Atonement in the Jewish tradition that on this day--and on this day alone--could the name of God, YHWH, be pronounced. Exactly ten times during the traditional Yom Kippur service in Israel would the priest utter this name out loud, and each time upon hearing the name the Israelites would fall prostrate to the ground.83 Thus it is noteworthy that in Benjamin's speech, the exalted name Lord God appears ten times (five as "Lord God," four as "Lord God Omnipotent," and one as "Lord Omnipotent")> Seven of these utterances are in the words of the angel to Benjamin (Mosiah 3:5,13,14,17,18,21,23); the other three are in the words of Benjamin (Mosiah 2:30,41; 5:15), occurring at important ceremonial breaking points in the speech. [John W. Welch, "Ten Testimonies of Jesus Christ from the Book of Mormon," F.A.R.M.S., 1994, pp. 11-12]


Mosiah 3:8 His Mother Shall Be Called Mary:


     According to king Benjamin, an angel had declared unto him that the Lord would come, and that "his mother shall be called Mary" (Mosiah 3:8). Hugh Nibley offers some interesting insights on the name Mary: "Well, imra'a means a human being, but it also means a woman. He shall be born of a woman, or Mary or of Miriam, at Jerusalem [or 'his mother shall be called Mary' or woman]. She's a special woman, and her name is Mary. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, p. 296]

     Note* The earliest scriptural allusion to Mary is found in the writings of Moses. The Father, speaking to the serpent in the Garden of Eden after the transgression of Adam and Eve, says: "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed; and he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." (Moses 4:21; compare Genesis 3:15). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 3:8 His Mother Shall Be Called Mary:


     If an angel of the Lord told king Benjamin that the Lord's "mother shall be called Mary" (Mosiah 3:8) many years before the actual event was to occur, then the event must have been planned or foreordained. That this was the case is born out by Hugh Nibley in his discussion of the early use of prayer circles:

           Still older are some documents designated as the Gospel of Bartholomew, belonging to that growing corpus of very early writings believed to contain instructions and teachings given to the Apostles in secret by the Lord after his resurrection. On one occasion when the apostles were met together, "Bartholomew . . . said to Peter, Andrew, and John, 'Let us ask [Mary] the favored one how she conceived the Lord and bore him.' " This was an embarrassing question, and no one was willing to approach Mary on the subject. "And Bartholomew said to Peter, 'You are the President and my teacher, you go and ask her!" But Peter says Bartholomew himself should ask, and after much hesitation he approaches Mary on behalf of the other apostles, and she agrees to enlighten them.84

     They form a prayer circle, "and Mary, standing before them, raised her hands to heaven" and began to call upon the Father in an unknown language, a number of versions of which are given.

           When she finished the prayer, she said, "Let us sit on the ground[or stand quietly, kathisomen, at the prepared place, edaphos--since it is plain that they remain standing]; come Peter, you are in charge. Stand at my right hand and place your left hand under my forearm; and you, Andrew, you do the same thing on my left side."85

           In a variant version [of early writings believed to contain instructions and teachings given to the Apostles in secret by the Lord after his resurrection], when the brethren are met together on the Mount of Olives, "Peter said to Mary, 'Blessed one, please ask the Lord to tell us about the things that are in heaven.' " But Mary reminds Peter that as Adam has precedence over Eve, so it is his business to take the lead in such things.86 Having taken position in the circle, Mary begins to speak:

                 When I was in the Temple of God [a number of early sources report that Mary served in the Temple, like Samuel, as a child]87 . . . there appeared to me one day a manifestation like an angel of unfamiliar aspect. . . . And suddenly the veil of the Temple was rent and there was a great earthquake and I fell on my face unable to bear the sight of him. But he stretched forth his hand and raised me up, and I looked up to heaven and a dewy cloud came and [lacuna] moistened me from head to foot; and he wiped me off with his stole (robe, shawl) and said to me, "Greetings, thou favored one, chosen vessel!" and he grasped my right hand. And there was bread in abundance and he set it out on the altar of the Temple [cf. the shewbread], and he ate first and then gave to mel. And he put forth his hand from his garment and there was wine in abundance, and he drank first and then gave to me, and I beheld and saw a full cup and bread. And he said to me, "In three years' time I shall send to you my Logos and you will bear a son, and through him all the creation will be saved. . . . Peace to thee, my beloved, forever and ever." And suddenly he was gone from me, and the Temple was as it was before.


     At this point the Lord himself appeared and commanded Mary "to utter no more of this mystery," while "the Apostles were sore afraid that the Lord would be angry with them."88 [Hugh W. Nibley, "The Early Christian Prayer Circle," in Mormonism and Early Christianity, pp. 49-51] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 11:20; 2 Nephi 25:19]


Mosiah 3:8 Mary:


     According to Robert Matthews, just as Jesus was selected for his redeeming mission in the premortal world, his prophets were also preappointed for their earthly missions, according to their faithfulness. (See Abraham 3:22-23; Alma 13:2-10.) It was in the premortal life that faithful sons and daughters of God received their first lessons in righteousness and became followers of Jesus. Some were foreordained to be prophets; others no doubt were appointed to be the fathers, mothers, and wives of prophets. There is no impropriety, then, in believing that Mary and Joseph were selected in those ancient councils by the Father to be the earthly guardians of Jesus.

     Such specific details about Mary (as mentioned in 1 Nephi 11:13-15, 18, 20-21, Mosiah 3:8, and Alma 7:10) couldn't have been known so long beforehand unless she had been appointed to that calling in the premortal life.

     Apocryphal writings of the early Christian era present a significant and recurring theme about a substantial period of spiritual preparation in Mary's life in the years before she conceived Jesus. They speak of her being tutored by angels and having other spiritual manifestations. (See Chapters 1 and 4-9, The Lost Books of the Bible, New York, The World Publishing Company, 1926. See also "The Gospel of Bartholomew," part 2, The Apocryphal New Testament, M. R. James, translator, Oxford, The Clarendon Press, 1969, pp. 170-72.) These manifestations were said to have occurred prior to the visit of the Angel Gabriel.

     Although many of the details of these writings assuredly are not accurate, the idea is probably correct that Mary received spiritual preparation and education for some time prior to the personal manifestation of the Father to her. [Robert J. Matthews, "Mary and Joseph: Heirs of David, Highly Favored, Guardians of Our Lord," in the Ensign, December 1974, pp. 14-17]


Mosiah 3:9 They Shall . . . Crucify Him:


     According to John Welch and Stephen Ricks, crucifixion was not only a Roman form of punishment but is attested as well as a Hebrew mode of execution. Deuteronomy 21:22 provides for execution in capital cases: "And if a man hath committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree . . ." Although this passage is ambiguous, whether hanging on a tree was a mode of execution or simply displaying the body after stoning, passages from the Dead Sea Scrolls make it clear that crucifixion was used by Jews as a mode of execution before Roman times. (Tvedtnes, Insights, April 1997, 2.)89 [John W. Welch and Stephen D. Ricks, "Appendix--Complete Text of Benjamin's Speech with Notes and Comment" in King Benjamin's Speech: "That Ye May Learn Wisdom," pp. 550-551] [See the commentary on 3 Nephi 4:28]


Mosiah 3:9 They . . . Shall Crucify Him (Christ):


     According to Bruce Warren, the concept of crucifixion would have been familiar to people on the American continent at the time of king Benjamin (see Mosiah 3:9). Crucifixion was a method of capital punishment in ancient Mexico, as it was in ancient Palestine. Interestingly, the "refinement" of leg breaking as part of the crucifixion procedure was practiced in both lands. Viscount Kingsborough, in his monumental nine-volume work, Antiquities of Mexico states: The Mexicans had a custom of breaking the legs of a crucified person on one of their most solemn festivals, and leaving him to die upon the cross. This curious fact is stated by Motolinia in the tenth chapter of the first part of his unedited treatise concerning the idolatry of the Indians of New Spain" (Kingsborough 1841-48, 6:16).

     Referring to another of the manuscripts of the Aztecs, Kingsborough notes: "The seventy fifth page of the Borgian manuscript [reproduced by Kingsborough] is very remarkable for the representation which it contains of Quetzalcoatl in the attitude of a crucified person, with the impressions of the nails visible in his hands and feet" (Ferguson 1958, 139). [Bruce W. Warren, Blaine M. Yorgason, Harold Brown, New Evidences of Christ in Mesoamerica, Unpublished Manuscript]


Mosiah 3:14 [The Lord] appointed unto them a law, even the law of Moses (Illustration): Chart: Legal Traditions Related to Biblical Law. [John W. Welch and Morgan A. Ashton, "Charting the Book of Mormon," Packet 1, F.A.R.M.S.]


Mosiah 3:17 There Shall Be No Other Name Given Nor Any Other Way:


     [See the commentary on Alma 38:9]


Mosiah 3:18-19 (Chiasm):


     According to John Welch, an excellent instance of chiasmus is found in Mosiah 3:18-19. It shows King Benjamin's literary mastery. This pattern comes at the very center of the middle section (4), and thus its words fall at the structural turning point of the entire speech--a point rarely noticed. There are 2,467 words of Benjamin--in the English translation, of course--before this midpoint (from Mosiah 2:9--3:18) and 2,476 words of Benjamin and the people after it (Mosiah 3:19--5:15)--the virtual middle of the speech. [John W. Welch, "A Masterful Oration," in King Benjamin's Speech: "That Ye May Learn Wisdom," pp. 70-71]


Mosiah 3:18-19 The Natural Man (Chiasm):


     Raymond Treat reports that much linguistic evidence has come to light since 1830 supporting the Book of Mormon as an authentic document. One of the more recent such discoveries (Welch 1969) is the recognition that some writers in the Book of Mormon used an ancient literary form known as chiasmus or a chiasm.

     A chiasm is a statement containing two or more parts followed by a restatement in reverse order (ABC C'B'A'). The word chiasm is derived from the Greek letter chi (X) and the Greek word chiazeim (to mark with an x) because a two part chiastic statement may be diagrammed in the form of an X.

     Dr. Noel Freedman, Ph. D., Director of Program on Studies in Religion, University of Michigan and General Editor of the Anchor Bible and Biblical Archaeologist discusses two kinds of chiasms in his preface to Chiasmus in Antiquity. One kind deals with words and the other with ideas. The type dealing with words is easily identified. There is generally no argument as to the existence of this type of chiasm. The words which are inverted or balanced can either be the same, synonyms or antonyms. An example from the Book of Mormon is found in Mosiah 3:18-19: "But men drink damnation to their own souls, except

A. they humble themselves

  B. and become as little children,

    C. and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ,

     the Lord Omnipotent:

      D. for the natural man

        E. is an enemy to God

          F. and has been, from the fall of Adam,

          F' and will be, for ever and ever;

        E' but if he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit,

      D' and putteth off the natural man,

    C' and becometh a saint, through the atonement of Christ, the Lord,

  B' and becometh as a child,

A' submissive, meek and humble . . ."


     The last six points parallel or repeat the first six points in reverse order, therefore, chiasm is also defined as an inverted parallelism. [Raymond C. Treat, "Chiasms in the Book of Mormon," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 1, p. 64]


Mosiah 3:19 Becometh a Saint:


     McConkie and Millet make note that the word saint is tied to the Hebrew root kadosh, which means to separate, to be apart from, and to become sacred and holy (Brown, Driver, Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon, p. 872). [Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. II, p. 153]


Mosiah 3:19 Through the Atonement of Christ the Lord:


     According to John Welch, since the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles fell at or around the same time in ancient Israel,90 it is possible to see influences from both of these holy days upon Benjamin's speech. . . . The hypothesis that Benjamin's speech embraces the themes of the Day of Atonement is initially suggested by the fact that Benjamin refers so often to the Atonement; he does so seven times (Mosiah 3:11,15,16,18,19; 4:6,7). The number may be purely accidental, but doing something "seven times" is saliently characteristic of rituals performed on the Day of Atonement and other purification ceremonies prescribed in the book of Leviticus.91 The priest's finger is dipped in the blood seven times; the blood is sprinkled seven times on the house, on the altar, and on the mercy seat (see Leviticus 4:6,17; 8:11; 14:7,16,27,51; 16:14,19). Milgrom asks, "Is it an accident that the sevenfold sprinkling is the seventh rite [in Leviticus 4:3-12] as well as in the purification of the scale-diseased person [Leviticus 14:24-25]?" Given "the frequency of the number seven" in the rituals of the law of Moses, Milgrom doubts that its occurrence is inadvertent or insignificant in the Bible.92 The same assumption applies in Benjamin's case. [John W. Welch, "The Temple in the Book of Mormon," in Temples of the Ancient World, pp. 352-353]